Portrait studio closure leaves customers in the dark

2013-04-10T14:00:00Z 2013-04-10T23:05:06Z Portrait studio closure leaves customers in the darkJoyce Russell joyce.russell@nwi.com, (219) 762-1397, ext. 2222 nwitimes.com

PORTAGE | Myra Gotch has taken her grandson to Walmart here to have his portrait taken three or four times a year for the past eight years.

When the South Haven woman went into PictureMe Portrait Studio on March 29, it was a little different.

"They usually give you a date when you can pick up your pictures. This time she said she didn't know and she would call me," said Gotch, referring to the photographer.

Gotch never got the call and likely won't get the photographs.

CPI Inc., of St. Louis, Mo., which operated about 2,000 studios across the country, leasing space inside Walmart and Sears stores, went out of business Thursday, shutting down all the studios and firing more than 4,300 people, according to a filing with the Security and Exchange Commission last week.

That left people like Gotch with no place to turn. She said she checked with the service desk at the local Walmart and it was distributing what photo packages had been left to customers, but photos of Gotch's grandson apparently had not been processed. She paid $32.07 for the most recent photo package.

No one at CPI's headquarters answered the telephone Wednesday and its website only had a closing announcement posted, saying it was "sad" to make the announcement.

Representatives from Sears and Walmart corporate offices said Wednesday they are trying to work with the shuttered company to fill customers' orders.

"We are working to help ensure our customers receive the photos they ordered from CPI," said Walmart corporate representative Danit Marquardt. "If we are not able to get the photos from CPI, we will refund the cost of the photos to customers with a valid receipt at the customer service desk at the store where the order was placed. Customers can also call 1-800-Walmart if they have any questions."

Howard Riefs, spokesman for Sears, said the store was notified last week about CPI's decision to close.

"We were notified Thursday, April 4, that CPI is ceasing its U.S. operations at retailers across the country immediately. CPI is a separate, publicly traded company that managed and operated Sears Portrait Studios as a licensed business," said Riefs, adding CPI operated in 788 Sears stores in the U.S.

"We are working with CPI to help ensure that it fulfills it outstanding orders and provides ordered pictures to our members and customers. We are currently exploring all options to potentially provide these portrait services to our members and customers as soon as possible," Riefs said.

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